awak·​en | \ ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio) \
awakened; awakening\ ə-​ˈwāk-​niŋ How to pronounce awaken (audio) , ə-​ˈwā-​kə-​ \; awakens

Definition of awaken

transitive + intransitive

: awake He was awakened by a knock at the door. I awakened from a deep sleep. She awakened to the smell of bacon and eggs. news that the long-dormant volcano is now awakening a new generation awakening to the importance of political action Shortly after settling in, she was awakened in the middle of the night by the phone …— Herb Caen The honourable gentleman made a speech which drew tears from the eyes of the ladies, and awakened the liveliest emotions in every individual present.— Charles Dickens That new, different noise we hear is from a giant constituency awakening in our field, and it will get louder.Library Journal

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Other Words from awaken

awakener \ ə-​ˈwāk-​nər How to pronounce awaken (audio) , ə-​ˈwā-​kə-​ \ noun, plural awakeners
Coffee's greatest effects are exerted upon the brain and mind, since coffee is a bracing awakener. — Chris Kilham Order this spicy soup only if you like a real palate awakener. — Karola Saekel

Synonyms & Antonyms for awaken



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The Past Tense Forms of Awake and Awaken

Awake and awaken are two distinct verbs that mean the same thing. In other words, they're synonyms, and in the present tense they each behave the way English verbs typically behave:

The cat awakes at dawn.

The cat awakens at dawn.

Things get trickier in the past tense.

Our modern verb awake is the result of the long-ago melding of two older verbs. These verbs were very similar, but one had regular past tense forms (like play: played, has played) and the other had irregular past tense forms (like take: took, has taken).

When the two verbs melded into the modern awake (which was a process over many years), things got complicated, resulting ultimately in the following grammatically permissible sentences:

The cat awaked at dawn.

The cat awoke at dawn.

The cat was awaked by the mouse at dawn.

The cat was awoken by the mouse at dawn.

Note, though, that at this point, these are the most common:

The cat awoke at dawn.

The cat was awoken by the mouse at dawn.

That's the story of awake. Fortunately awaken (which was originally one of the past tense forms of awake) is simpler. It's a regular verb, which means it has the usual past tense forms:

The cat awakened at dawn.

The cat was awakened at dawn by a mouse.

As if all this weren't complicated enough, awake is also an adjective:

Because of the cat, I too am now awake.

For a detailed discussion of the history of these words, please see the The Grammatical History of 'Awaken' / 'Awoken' / 'Awakened'.

Examples of awaken in a Sentence

She usually awakens several times during the night. A loud noise awakened her.
Recent Examples on the Web Rather than injecting the surface proteins that awaken the immune system directly into the body, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are injecting the RNA which codes for such proteins. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "The science behind the leading COVID vaccines will lead to faster manufacturing," 5 Dec. 2020 The Bears’ chances rest on their ability to awaken offensively. Brad Biggs,, "Chicago Bears Q&A: If this team is a QB away from contending, why not sell out in the 2021 draft to get one? And which Bears players have a realistic shot at the Pro Bowl?," 25 Nov. 2020 The watch delivers vibrations in cycles of 10 seconds, increasing in intensity to arouse but not awaken the wearer, until the metrics ease back to normal levels. Michele Cohen Marill, Wired, "How a Vibrating Smartwatch Could Be Used to Stop Nightmares," 1 Dec. 2020 For André Gregory, a stage director with a deep ruminative streak, the purpose of theater is to awaken the self, that mysterious patchwork of being and nothingness. Los Angeles Times, "Decades after his famous dinner, the once-restless André Gregory writes of inner peace," 25 Nov. 2020 In 2003, President George W. Bush tried to awaken the nation to the energy possibilities in hydrogen — the world's lightest, most abundant element. John Fialka, Scientific American, "Energy Department Looks to Boost Hydrogen Fuel for Big Trucks," 6 Nov. 2020 When the air is still, the sleeping beast that lives inside every set of wind chimes will not awaken. Washington Post, "Tubular bells mean wind-chime hell: More sounds that readers can’t stand," 20 Oct. 2020 With the Lakers set to bring back the vast majority of their roster, the onus is now on the Warriors to vault back into contention and finally awaken this long-dormant rivalry. Connor Letourneau,, "Could Warriors-Lakers finally become a rivalry next season?," 20 Oct. 2020 Resistant at first, Mary -- who harbors her own painful past -- is increasingly drawn to her charge, as the two awaken the spark in each other. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Ammonite' derives its muted shine from Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan," 12 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'awaken.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of awaken

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for awaken

Middle English, from Old English awæcnian, from a- + wæcnian to waken

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Time Traveler for awaken

Time Traveler

The first known use of awaken was before the 12th century

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Statistics for awaken

Last Updated

26 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Awaken.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for awaken


How to pronounce awaken (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of awaken

somewhat formal : to stop sleeping : to wake up


awak·​en | \ ə-ˈwā-kən How to pronounce awaken (audio) \
awakened; awakening

Kids Definition of awaken

More from Merriam-Webster on awaken

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for awaken

Britannica English: Translation of awaken for Arabic Speakers

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